Friday, June 27, 2014

Norman Island, The Caves/Indians and Jost Van Dyke - Sailing the BVI's (Chapter 3 of 8)

After a few drinks last night at the WillyT and then back at the boat, we slept soundly until we had an awakening from a bit of drizzle.  It was almost a mist, but enough that when coming into the hatches and on me while I slept, it was enough to wake me up.  I removed the breeze booster and closed the hatch, then it stopped.  That was the way it went on this trip, we never really got any "rain" but just a few little misting.  Sadly we were all hoping for a bit of rain to rinse the salt off the boat and we all wanted to experience a fresh and natural shower on the back deck or trampoline up front.  O'Barr affectionately referred to this amount of rain as "Fairy piss" and that was all we got several times on the trip.  To be clear I am not complaining, when you book a charter in week two of hurricane season, this was a really good scenario that played out.

I mentioned a breeze booster above.  I have not seen one of this style but I will be getting some for our boat for sure.  The goal of these is to capture or scoop more air than you would get from just an open hatch.  I have seen these that look like a big upside down V and connect to a halyard and attach inside the hatch like this one that Amazon sells.
This one however was free standing.  It had a v that was stiffened by something like sail battens and two angled legs that go to the hinged side of the hatch.  They sit on the deck and the a string and a stick goes down through the hatch and it makes the upside down V look like a big huge scoop.  Here is a link to them at West Marine for anyone interested.  They would more than triple the amount of air flow coming into a hatch.  When at anchor your bow always points to the wind so these take advantage of a knot or two of breeze and still work wonders to cool you down.  We were in the tropics and most nights I would turn off the fan and sleep comfortably in 85 degrees which shocked me given we keep our thermostat at the dock down at 72.

Another morning of coffee as I got up, relaxing on deck and all discussing what we wanted to do that day and the rough details of the route and plan for the trip.  We decided on some snorkeling stops today pretty close to where we had started our day then a nice sail planned in the afternoon to head to Jost Van Dyke and dinner and drinks ashore at Foxy's.  After a breakfast of pancakes and pineapple we cleaned up the dishes while Mike went to go visit a boat in the anchorage he thought he recognized from his cruising days.  It was an "Oceans 60" (if I have that name right).  He dinghied over and talked to the folks on board.  It turned out not to be the people he met years earlier cruising but they did know of the boat and those people so they visited for a little while.

We dropped our mooring ball and motored out of the anchorage at The Bight and just went around the point to "The Caves" which is on the northwest side of Norman Island. 

The bay on the left is "The Bight", boats are ached in front of the Caves
Norman islands is said to be the inspiration for the book "treasure Island" based on the following history of pirate booty being stored there.  In 1750 a Spanish treasure galleon named Nuestra Seniora de Guadalupe was caught in a storm off the coast of North Carolina.  During that storm while waiting out the storm the crew mutined and the treasure was split up and taken on two different bilanders (smaller European two masted ships).  There was said to have been 55 chests of silver coins on the galleon that was taken by the crews.  One of the ships perished but the other was manned by Owen Lloyd who escaped with the ship to St. Croix.  After disposing of so e of the money, story has it that he went to Norman Island and buried the treasure.  Lloyd and his crew were eventually arrested bit word of the treasure spread to Tortola where people came in search of it.  Interestingly enough part of the treasure was recovered by Gilbert Flemming who was the Luitenant General for the Leeward islands and convinvpced the  Luitenant Governor of the BVI to issue a law where the treasure would be returned and the people that dug it up would retain one third of it.  There are additional interesting stories of a local fisherman taking refuge In The cave from a storm and having found gold doubloons.  There is no official record of this treasure being found but his family all moved off of Tortola at that same time and opened businesses in St. thomas.  Read more online with a search for Norman island and treasure.

You can see the caves along the shoreline
Back to our trip.  We picked up a mooring in front of the caves and were really close to shore.  The stern of the boat was only about 50 feet from the rock cliffs.  The wind was light and funky and a few times the boats on moorings swung in different directions.  We never made contact with any boats around us but a few times the crew that stayed on board manned fenders in the event they may.

We hopped off the stern of the boat with fins, snorkels and masks and swam along the shoreline toward the cave entrance. This was really a cool place because near shore it was 5-10 feet deep and then about 30 yards from shore there was a pretty good 10-20 foot drop off.  We snorkeled along the wall and saw great collections of coral and fish.  At the
You can get a sense of the drop off 
bottom of this blog post will be a link to a video of the snorkeling.  Some of the photos contained in this blog post came from those videos.

At first it was really interesting we swam through a hole bunch of little jelly fish.  Theese were not stinging kinds but the little quarter to half dollar sized translucent circular shaped ones.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what it was.
We saw schools of dark tangs with light tails.  They swam in groups of fifty or so and were just a few feet below us.  We saw amazing trigger fish, and what looked like either a clown
T and Oday Snorkeling
trigger or some type of spotted grouper.  We saw a lot of these silver fish with yellow tails.

Then as everyone was diving down a bit along the wall to get a closer look at the urchins in all the rock crevices we saw hundreds of zebra damsels swimming all around us.  

The Urchins had some of the longest splines I have ever seen.  We saw quite a bit of coral as well but I did not see any anenomies.  

Hundreds of Zebra Damsels in schools
 We made our way to the cave entrance and only went in the first edge of it and came back out and worked our way back toward the boat.  I wish I would have gone in further.  It got very shallow by the mouth of the cave so we didn't cross it for fear of touching the coral and damaging it.  I later found out that you only have to cross that one shallow spot and it gets deep again in the cave.

We were on a national park mooring which you are only supposed to be on for 90 minutes so got under way and headed a
I attempted to capture just how many there were above
short distance to the north to an area called the pelican and Indians.  For the record I do t know where these islands and Rock Archipalegos get their names, I can only assume that someone thought they looked like a pelican or an Indian.  The wind had picked up quite a bit and we actually struggled for the first time to pick up our mooring.  Wind and waves fought us and made snagging the pendant ( which didn't have a float) difficult.  Third time is a charm and we were moored.

At this location (The Indians), it was a bit
The Indians (just Rocks and a reef)
like The Baths in that you had to dinghy to a dinghy mooring. And jump off to snorkel.  Here the snorkeling may have been a little better than the caves and the water a bit clearer.  While snorkeling there was a lot of fish and coral spotted as well as a decent sized barracuda swimming g just off in the deeper water.  There was a school of blue tangs and several parrot fish.  There was fan coral and leather coral all around.
See the bottom of the Blog post for my photos from Snorkeling at the Indians.

Black and Blue Tang
Upon returning to the Dinghy, they found Oday just relaxing in the bow waiting on folks to finish snorkeling.  Robert and Oday came back in the dinghy but Deb and T decided to swim back to the boat to see what they could see over the deeper water.

Once everyone was on board, salt water rinsed from great and people, we raised the main while still on our mooring and prepared for a sail to Jost.  All of us on this trip have boats that range for 23 to 43 feet, all mono hulls and used to lifting sail.  That said, the sail on the catamaran is so big and fully battened with heavy duty sail car tracks for each batten, this sail is not easy to raise.  On my boat I get the sail about a foot from the top of the mast and use the winch to
raise it the last foot and tighten.  On the Cat, any one of us would get it about 80% of the way up and then have to use the winch to raise it the rest of the way.  The main halyard has a 2 to 1 purchase to make this easier but it means you are pulling twice the height of the mast in line.  So after a bit of panting and catching my breath the sail was raised.

Below is a video put together from the snorkeling at The Caves and The Indians.  Just click the video below, however if you are reading this blog post from an email subscription or other means, you will have to click on this link to see the video (Snorkeling Video Link)

We dropped the mooring and then headed northwest toward Tortola and unrolled the jib.
Saint John just behind us on the Port Side
The boat sailed nicely and we had the wind just aft of the beam.  When we got close to Tortola we gybed to the east to plan our next lay line to make it thought the cut near the west end of Tortola.  As we were on this tack we were headed directly toward St John in the US Virgin Islands.  There are very heavy penalties for going ashore in the USVI without first checking out of BVI, including a $5,000 fine per person and automatic confiscation of the boat. ( I am not sure our deposit would cover this ).  We had no intention of going to St John on this trip but most people on the boat did take advantage if the fact that we were close enough for US cell service without roaming charges.  A few people checked on pets at home, family members and to provide a quick update that we were all doing fine and having a safe sail through the islands.  We beared northwest again and set up a layline to pass right between the west end of Tortola and Little Thatch island.  We passed beautiful homes that just appeared to be stuck on the sides of the cliffs in the west end rope Tortola.  We passed a few small ferries in this area as they headed into Sopers Hole on the West End.  As we passed Tortola, we had a nice open water sail up into Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke.
Robert and I setting up our Mooring Bridal

We found a mooring out a ways from land to take advantage of the wind given the height of the island.  Upon anchoring we jumped in for a nice swim, we cleaned up and headed to shore for some ice and some provisions we needed.  We found out we were missing mustard and steaks from our provisioning list.  We tied up to the government dock right in the center of Great Harbor.m when you get off the dock there is a great sign welcoming you to Jost.  The police station and immigration Is the first building up the dock.  Mary, Deb and I went to the store, O'Barr and Oday made a trip to the ferry dock to drop off our trash and went on a hunt for ice.

One of the things you have to really think about on a boat is how much trash you create.  We did find that in some of the anchorages, a boat would come by and offer to take your trash for a fee.  We typically took ours to shore ourselves and most places it is free.  We did find one place on shore that charged $2.50 per bag.  We all met back up after getting what we all needed and headed to the boat.  The market had just about everything we wanted and needed.  Plantains, bananas, steaks (they were not delivered with our provision list and they substituted something else, but we wanted steaks), Propane for the grill and chips.  Obarr and Oday had picked up the ice and met us at the dock closer to the market to save us the walk around the cove.

The Dinghy Dock at Foxy's
Tonight we planned on going to Foxy's.  I thought I would include a few photos of how you actually get somewhere from your anchored boat.  Some places have a "Dinghy Dock" you can tie up to, other places you just beach the dinghy.  Foxy's does have a nice dinghy dock but as you can imagine, all of those dinghy's look a lot alike in the dark after a few too many PainKillers or Dark&Stormy's.

You just can't go to the Jost Van Dyke and not go to Foxy's.

He is an icon in this part of the world and his beach front bar/restaurant is famous in all sailing and boating and vacation magazines.  There is part of the place that has a wooden floor, but no walls.  The largest section of the restaurant has a roof but no floor.  Sit on benches like a picnic table, feet in the sand and just relax to the sounds of music (maybe a live band but not the night we were there).  You can go into the gift shop and purchase items if you want.
The food is pretty good (not great but again, you have to go there and get Conch Fritters for sure).  But, What Foxy is famous for is his PainKillers.  It is a sweet drink made with Cream of Coconut, Rum Pineapple juice, Orange Juice and some fresh ground nutmeg.  (No wonder my blood sugar was high).  They will, as their name implies have you feel no pain.

We were lucky, Foxy himself was there and was doing what Foxy does, walking around talking to guest.  I don't recall this from last time I was there a few years ago, but this time he was drinking straight rum from a glass and it hadn't been his first nip when we got there.
He was telling jokes and making small talk.  He is a nice guy but one thing struck me kind of sad actually.  Some of the jokes he was telling were a bit racial and it dawned on me that his perception is that white folks want to hear that.  Maybe I read too much into it or had one too many PainKillers already, but I hope he realizes that most people that come to visit him see him as a fellow human and not a color.

I had the camera going on the table to try to record some of the stories he was telling but they were just too quiet to hear them.  He was really nice though and posed for a picture with all of us.  OBarr and I went in search of the things that we have left tacked or tucked into the ceiling as a memento.  I can't remember where the heck I had put my business card when I was there on a company trip and Obarr couldn't find the flag he thought he had left there.  (Then again, there is likely 1000's of items that people put on the ceiling every year.)

Here is a little tip, if you go there (or anywhere in the islands) and are having dinner at dusk, the NoSeeUm's will get you pretty good so bring some skin so soft or off.  If you ask, quite a few places will have some they will let you use or some will put those small coils you burn in the sand beneath your table.  For those that don't know, NoSeeUm's are just that, you don't see them and they bite like hell.  They seem to stay close to the ground and only bite for about an hour or so as the sun goes down.  From the lower shin down needs to be sprayed.  If there is any wind at all, they are not usually a problem but along the ground under a table, they were active.

We did the touristy thing and went to Foxy's but you MUST, MUST, MUST go to Corsairs.  Corsairs is just down the road from foxy's past the government building.  The owners is an Expat named Vinny who sailed to the islands and never left.  The food at Corsairs is rated the best on the island and next time I will absolutely be going there instead of a meal.  Everyone was raving about it and after our trip, I even saw a write up in a magazine about how good the cooking was.

First round of Absinthe
Deb, T, Oday and I went to Corsairs because we had read somewhere that they served absinthe (The little green fairy) and thought it would be interesting to try.  So we bellied up to the bar and told Vinny what we wanted.  He asked "Shot or some other way".  Hmm, I had heard that Absinthe, should be dripped slowly over a sugar cube on the back of a spoon into a cup with distilled water in it, So we asked him what the difference is.  His answer was classic, "Either way is going to f&%k you up, so not sure why it matters".  From that moment, I liked Vinny.  He did ask if we liked the taste of licorice, two of our party did not so his response was "Do a shot, it won't be in your mouth long enough for the taste to linger"

T and Oday at Corsairs
We sat a chatted with Vinny for a couple of hours.  Really good guy, he had just gotten a GoPro camera so we were talking about that and I helped him download the app he needs and I was letting him connect to my GoPro and show him how he can control it and what not.    The place is laid back, if he was busy, someone else would get us a drink.  They wrote down most of them but not all of them and at the end of the night, he asked how many we had so we could settle up.  I love that there is still a level of trust like that and that people are not all jaded into thinking
Vinny and the Girls.  That thing around his neck is actually a
monocle. I don't think I have ever seen that before.  It was very piratey
someone is going to rip them off.  Deb and T tried to get Vinny to do a shot of Absinthe with them and he said he will drink with them, "just to that shit" which again just cracked me up.  Deb and T were having a good ole' time and trying to ring the bigger dinner bell above the bar.  As I was going through photos for the blog, I found pictures of the girls with Vinny, behind the Bar.  I don't even remember who took those pictures and don't remember them being behind the bar.  Obarr came back to meet us after taking Robert and Mary back to the boat and hanging out for a while.  We left corsairs and wandered on back to the Dinghy dock.   As we were walking down the street, Deb seemed to find someone that you would think was her long lost best friend.
Deb on Swing, T as the Pusher
They said hi, Deb asked how she was, then they gave each other a hug like they had not seen each other in many years.  It turns out Deb had talked to her in Corsairs earlier, but I found it humorous that they seemed so close now.    Oh, and on the walk home,  Debs British accent came out.  She is not from there, never been there but for her it seems to be some kind of a Blood Alcohol Content measurement for her.   And before we could get all the way to the Dinghy dock, someone spotted a tire swing.  So a detour was required and all I kept thinking is that we are a long way from the emergency room :)

So a nice peaceful slow dinghy ride back to the boat and as you can imagine, we all slept pretty well this night.

Below is a short recap video of the days activities form our YouTube Channel.  Click the video below, however if you are reading this blog post from an email subscription or other means, you will have to click on this link to see the video (Norman Island, Snorkeling, Jost Van Dyke, Foxy's and Corsairs)

More Photos from Snorkeling at the Indians.
Schools of fish were everywhere.  These were Surgical Tangs
with Black bodies and a blue tail.

ODay contemplating swimming into an underwater cave

T doing some free diving to about 15 feet or so

OBarr found an rock bridge and was thinking about swimming
under to the other side.  The opening was pretty tight so
cooler heads prevailed

Robert was constantly diving down to 15 or so feet deep.
He is quite the frog-man
I think this may be a parrot fish, but not 100% sure